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Richard Smoley's Blog

The latest particle

It's gotten fairly common to read announcements of the discoveries of new subatomic particles. The latest example is the article (link to the left) on some possible new version of the Higgs boson.

Of course I am in no position to comment on these things scientifically.

I wonder, though, where it is all leading.

What is matter, after all?


What is energy?

The movement of particles.

What are these particles composed of?

The motions of still smaller particles.

What are these particles composed of?

You can see where it's going from here.

As you can see, there are two places this inquiry can lead:

1. The recursive discovery of ever-smaller particles that eventually fade into the blank space of quasi-metaphysical speculation. (We're practically there.)

2. Some final, ultimately indivisible particles. Which would bring us back to the atoms posited by Democritus around 400 B.C. If these existed, they would be the most mysterious things of all.

Subatomic physics has long since passed the point where its ideas sound far wilder and more improbable than the most far-out occult theories.

But so far scientism has managed to save the street-level view of naive realism by positing that such mysterious effects occur only at submolecular levels.

Why do I think this is a flimsy structure that is sooner or later bound to collapse?
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